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Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God MtG Art from War of the Spark by Raymond Swanland

War of the Spark (WAR) Draft Guide

Our in-depth guide to War of the Spark (WAR) Draft, with the most important information you need to know about the format.

Hey everyone! We’re getting a flashback draft to the final days of the battle with Nicol Bolas in War of the Spark. It will be available on Arena in Premier Draft format from March 19th to March 26th. Somehow, I never got around to writing a draft guide for it so I am neglecting my other responsibilities to slam this one out for you.

To get in the mood, I popped up the War of the Spark trailer which mostly made me question why they stopped making great ones like that. Oh well, on to the draft stuff.

Key Ideas of War of the Spark Draft

It’s important to start off with addressing the gimmick of this set. There is a Planeswalker in every pack. That means that yes, both you and your opponent are going to have them. That will put a premium on early board positioning because being the one who can successfully pressure their opponents Planeswalkers will have a huge advantage.

One of the consequences of this is that a card such as Toll of the Invasion reads like a janky card in most sets, but is actively very good in this format. Getting to both pick off a Planeswalker from their hand before they have the opportunity to get any value out of it while still adding to the board is huge.

Another reason that card is good is the overall bombiness of the format.  There are a lot of them and some of them are certified all time bangers (I can assure you that God-Eternal Oketra is an experience). Outside of the typical “planeswalkers are good, right?”, you have the whole cycle of God-Eternals amongst other “deal with this or lose” cards such as Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin.

Why am I talking so much about a single card in the key ideas section? Because you need to reevaluate everything in the context of this environment and how important being able to affect the board is. It’s key to victory whether that is enabling your bombs to take over or minimizing the effect theirs have.

That might make it sound hopeless in some cases, but I won a game where my opponent wrecked my side with Finale of Eternity while playing God-Eternal Oketra on curve. I ended up winning with exact damage while I was at one life so really tight gameplay can really payoff even in the face of seemingly unbeatable bombs.

Try to plan out a few turns in advance for how you are going to be protecting your own Planeswalkers as well as how you are going to be dealing with theirs. You don’t want to take a turn off from developing your board and let them drop a busted Planeswalker without having to worry about what you are going to do about it. Even being able to deal with an uncommon one before they get the second activation off is a big deal.

While synergy is still very important, overall power level tends to come out on top. That rewards staying open and drafting the hard way instead of getting tunnel vision while cramming everything with the same key words together. Even though synergy is secondary, don’t pass up a great deck being passed to you to cling to the bomb you opened. There’s a very tight balance to that here.  

Format Speed

This is a fairly slow format especially compared to some of the more recent sets we’ve been getting. That means that you will have time for card advantage and setting up. Don’t go too crazy though because as I previously discussed falling behind on board can quickly snowball out of control. It might take awhile for the game to end from there, but you won’t feel like you are really still in it.

Looking at the previous premier draft data for WAR it even has a fairly low win rate on the play that is under 51%. That means that even if you can’t win the initial die roll, it won’t affect your chances nearly as much as other factors like drafting and decision making.

Archetype Tiers

Top Tier Archetypes

Personally, I love anything within the Grixis color pie as my top tier of archetypes. You shouldn’t go straight up three color because the fixing isn’t great here. I prefer to be in one of the two-color combinations with a possible splash for power level instead.

The main reason for these being top tier is that these are the colors of interaction and I can assure you that you want to be interacting with what your opponent is doing. If you aren’t then you are just playing a game of war (yeah, yeah, I know…) while flipping cards to see whose is higher.

Some of these individual archetypes aren’t necessarily on the same page while still having synergy with each other. An example is that Izzet is focusing on noncreature spells while Dimir is an Amass control deck. They seem to be doing different things, but casting noncreature spells that also amass means that you are still on the same plan allowing the cards to work in both archetypes. My point is that instead of relying on a tier list, you’re going to have to make decisions on the fly during the draft based off of how well everything in your concoction works together.

Second Tier Archetypes

While I have Azorius on its own in the second tier, it is a lot closer to the top tier than it is to the tiers below. It is your typical aggressive blue white flyers deck and it is usually pretty obvious when you should be in it. My path was usually to start out hard in blue and then see some great white cards late especially something like Elite Guardmage.

The thing here is that it can play like a top tier deck, but you should never start out a draft planning to go into it. When you do fall back into it, all those flyers give you the advantage of being able to take down some Planeswalkers through combat without having to expend extra cards to do so.

Third Tier Archetypes

The third tier consists of Gruul, Orzhov, Golgari, and Boros. I typically end up in these decks when the rares lead me into them. They’re nothing special, but not worth avoiding either. Mostly your classic old school midrangey limited archetypes here except for Boros which tends to be more aggro.

The Bottom of the Barrel

The bottom tier archetypes are Simic and Selesnya. They were real misses in the format that don’t have either the interaction or the speed to really hold their own. I’m not saying that you should never be in these colors, but I really don’t want to end up in these archetypes unless I end up with multiple bombs. Even then, I’d try to be in another pair splashing those bombs.  

Tips and Tricks

If you are both properly prepared then a lot of these games can come down to an attrition battle. Make sure you have a game plan for winning through that.

One of the big reasons games go longer is that Planeswalkers tend to psuedo add life points to each side. Unless you are killing them within the next turn, it feels like you need to attack the Planeswalker or risk falling too far behind if you can’t close out the game. Doing the math and making the right decision on this is a huge difference in these games. This is also why a straight aggro approach doesn’t feel great here.

While the uncommon Planeswalkers don’t have plus abilities, they can still get more activations through proliferate. Even without that, most of them are usually well worth the mana for the number of activations that you do get.  

Speaking of that, you should usually still kill the used up Planeswalker if your opponent is in proliferate colors even if its static ability doesn’t affect you.

Read The Wanderer when your opponent casts it. We all made the mistake once before realizing that it is basically a Coalition Honor Guard for damage-based removal except that the spell fizzles instead of forcing you to target it if you mess up.

If you already have an amass token out, then you can look at any new one you are casting as having haste. Whether or not that is worth more than a 1/1 would be is going to be very dependent on the situation you are in.

One way to take advantage of the Amass tokens is having multiple sacrifice outlets to cash them in before making another one.

Did you like Preening Champion? Well, let me introduce you to Aven Eternal.

Amass is also why you don’t see a Pacifism in the set. They didn’t want you to be able to permanently lock someone out of their amass cards.

Ugin's Conjurant is a card that is easy to read and think is bad. It helps fill any part of the curve and can be a massive problem later in the game. It’s a fine early pick because you know that it will make every deck regardless of how the rest of the draft goes.

Evolution Sage is another one that could be easily underrated. There are plenty of +1+1 and loyalty counters running around to take advantage of it.

Spellgorger Weird is another one that looks awful when viewed under the lens of modern limited. It can often grow out of control in the Izzet deck and dominate the board. It’s still fine to play in almost any color combination since you almost always have enough noncreature spells to support it.

When you look at Callous Dismissal as a 1/1 Man-O'-War for two mana, it looks a lot better than when you look at it like a bounce spell. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not always a 1/1 though.

While obviously very deck dependent, Interplanar Beacon is a fine way to help splash some great Planeswalkers.  Don’t throw it in a random deck just to potentially gain a couple of life off of a colorless land.

Getting blasted by a Lazotep Plating is another feel bad that pops up in this format. Countering a spell while getting a 1/1 for two mana is great (for one side of the table).

Spark Reaper is another underrated card, but it lets you cash in used up Planeswalkers or 1/1 tokens for new cards. It also forces them to either kill it or play around it with their own removal.


As you can tell, there are a lot of sweepers to consider. Since it is only Bo1, you won’t have the option to play around it the rest of the match. You’ll just have to try to identify them early.

Time Wipe is a really good version of Wrath of God in this format because you can play out a good creature to make them feel safe from a sweeper when you’re just going to pick it up.

Massacre Girl can be hard to get to go off if there isn’t a one toughness creature around, but I don’t have to tell you that wiping the board while you get a 4/4 menace is good. You might have to make one of your own to start the killing spree.

Widespread Brutality can be amazing, but is also vulnerable to removal.  

Finale of Eternity elicits a massive groan every time it is played. Getting only your side of the board wiped for four or five mana is a horrible feeling. While the ten or more clause normally doesn’t matter, it’s not a nothing burger either.  

Solar Blaze is an odd one because sometimes it just doesn’t line up right. If you suspect that they have it, its still safe to play creatures that live through it without worrying about the full blowout.

Single Combat isn’t that great, but it can definitely be a huge swing in the game if it’s played in the right spot.

Technically you could lump Blast Zone in here too since it has the potential to sweep multiple cards.

Combat Tricks

Defiant Strike and Samut's Sprint are both offensive focused tricks that provide a little extra on top.

You do have to watch out for just good old fashioned Giant Growth.

Battlefield Promotion is pretty easy to play around by blocking with something that doesn’t die to the +1+1 and first strike. Though be wary of anything with Deathtouch because of this.

Unlikely Aid is something I wouldn’t expect too much at higher ranks, but I would be more concerned about it lower down the ladder.

Steady Aim is one of those tricks you always forget about because no one plays it until that time your poor flyer gets eaten.

Pledge of Unity is the pump all creatures spell of the set and it even puts counters on so they stick around. You just won’t run into many Selesnya decks, but if they are you should definitely consider this on a strange all-in attack.


Crush Dissent is a very swingy card because late in the game it can end up being a four mana 2/2 that requires another spell to be played. On the other hand, it can be back breaking if you’re ahead on tempo and counter their spell while adding to the board. It’s an awful lot of mana to hold up so you can sniff this out fairly easily.

Dovin's Veto is what it is, you can’t really play around it other than trying to bait them into countering something less relevant than the Planeswalker you want to drop.

No Escape is better than you think because the exile clause does come up occasionally. The important thing with this is recognizing when your opponent has it and forcing them to strand their mana by casting instants or sorceries.

Bolt Bend isn’t a traditional counterspell, but it is something to consider because it can be a massive blowout on a removal spell.


These are the Pack One Pick One (p1p1) no doubt, windmill slam, just take them rares of the set. These are not in rank order, just take these over any non-mythic uncommon or common. There are plenty more easy first pick ones, but I only have so much room in this article.

Mythic Uncommons

These might be uncommons, but they sure don’t play like they are. There are plenty more running around, like I said the power level is high in this set.

Do Not Draft List

These are the cards that you really shouldn’t try to talk yourself into. Just let them live peacefully in the sideboard (preferably someone elses).

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with some more coverage for you. Until then, stay classy people!

I’m always open to feedback, let me know what you loved, what you hated, or just send dog pics. You can contact me at:

Iroas, God of Victory Art


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Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

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